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Posts Tagged ‘Greater Whipwort Liverwort’

1. Tunnel

Last weekend I decided to explore a place that I first saw a couple of years ago and which I’ve been curious about ever since. My hike down a section of the Cheshire Rail Trail would carry me over this stone arch tunnel built when the railroad came through circa 1848. That was back when only horse drawn wagons used it and to this day it’s only wide enough for one car at a time.

2. Culvert

Off in the woods is a culvert built as a smaller version of the tunnel that carries water instead of cars under the rail bed. Both the culvert and tunnel were built by expert masons from stone quarried very near here. They are beautiful examples of the stone mason’s art and are also fine examples of taking pride in your work. Even though these culverts are in places where they couldn’t be seen by the public they were built as if everyone in Keene, New Hampshire would be seeing them.

3. Ice on Rock

It was a cold morning and the stones in the stream wore skirts of ice.

4. Stream

This is the view of the stream from the rail trail above the culvert that passes under the rail bed.

5. Road

And this is the view of the road that passes through the tunnel under the rail bed.

6. Trail Start

And unfortunately this is the start of the rail trail section that I planned to follow. The ice stretched on into the distance so I went back to my truck to get my Yaktrax, but that’s when I discovered that I had foolishly left them at home. There was nothing to do but walk on the edges of the trail and hope for the best. I had to pinwheel my arms a couple of times to keep my balance but I didn’t fall. I actually saw 2 bike riders and a jogger riding and running across ice just like this. I don’t know how they did it; it was all I could do to walk on it. Walking on ice makes your body tense up and it can be very tiring.

7. Trail

Finally the ice gave way to gravel and from here on it wasn’t bad.

8. Ripples in Ice

But there was still ice to be seen in the drainage ditches that line each side of the rail bed. It was too thin to walk on but admiring it was possible.

9. Trail Detour

Before I knew it I was at the detour that goes uphill and around the original rail bed.

10. Abandoned Section

And that’s because this is the original rail bed, which is obviously no longer used. I’ve taken the detour around it and I’ve been able to look down into what is a deep railway cut through the hillside from up there. Since I first saw it two years ago I’ve been curious about what is in there and today I planned to find out. There were a few obstacles ahead but they didn’t look unsurmountable. I had to make myself very small to crawl under the tree in the photo, but I got through the tangle.

11. Fallen Trees

I should say that I got through the first tangle. It looked like there were plenty more up ahead.

12. Fallen Trees

Most I had to simply climb over, but ice made it challenging in places.

13. Ledges

It was easy to see why there were so many fallen trees in here. They were perched on the brink of ledges which looked like they were about to crumble and fill the space with rubble. Sizeable stones had  fallen in places but I didn’t really want to think about that. I could only hope I wouldn’t be in here when anything fell.

14. Fallen Trees

Trees of all sizes had toppled onto the rail bed and each one had to be climbed over or crawled under. While in this place I didn’t see a single foot print and I wondered if it was because nobody wanted to go through what I was going through. The next time you meet a snowmobiler I hope you’ll give them a big thank you, because without their voluntary trail maintenance all of our rail trails would probably look just like this, and that would be a shame.

15. Drill Marks

Reminders of the railroad workers were everywhere. When this rail bed was blasted out of the rock they drilled a hole with a steam drill or by hand with a star drill and sledge hammer. They then filled the hole with black powder, lit the fuse, and probably ran. And then they had tons of blasted rock to move without the use of gasoline powered vehicles. These people certainly earned their pay.

16. Ice

There was some ice here but it wasn’t anywhere near as big or as colorful as the spectacular ice falls that I’ve seen in the other deep railway cut on the way to Westmoreland. This ice was very clear.

17. Fallen Trees

Finally the fallen trees thinned out so I could walk normally without climbing or crawling. I could tell that there was needle ice under the thick mat of leaves by the way they crunched with every step. For a change I was grateful for the ice underfoot because otherwise it would have been very wet here. In fact I’m not sure I could get through it in warm weather without my knee high rubber boots on. Normally the drainage ditches would keep the rail bed very dry, but they were blocked in several places and had soaked it.

18. Telegraph Pole

A telegraph pole leaned against one of the walls. These used to be strung along the sides of the rail beds with glass insulators on cross arms. I haven’t seen one of these for a long time.

19. Dead End

The end of the line was nothing but a pile of dirt covered by last year’s fallen leaves but that was a problem, because railroad tracks don’t just stop at a dirt pile; this line ran north to Westmoreland and then cut over into Vermont at one time, so I know it was here. The guard rails for Hurricane Road, which was laid out in 1761, can just be seen at the top of this photo. Hurricane Road ran to the Westmoreland town line and the railroad came to this area in 1848, so the tracks would have had to run under the road at this spot. So does that mean that there is a beautiful granite tunnel like the one in the first photo of this post under that huge pile of dirt? Did they take the tunnel apart and fill in the hole when the railroad stopped running? These are questions that I can’t answer yet but there must be a record somewhere, and the county Historical Society will be a good place to start searching.

20. Rail

A rail comes out of the pile of dirt where the tunnel should be but it is loose and not attached to any ties that I could see. Piles of the old ties were stacked here and there along the rail trail before I entered the canyon.

21. Mossy Wall

When I was a boy I wanted to be a plant explorer in the Amazon jungle and though this place was far from jungle like it was a kind of Shangri La like lost world and I felt right at home. I searched the walls for the great scented liverwort (Conocephalum conicum) but I don’t think enough groundwater trickled down the walls to support them. Instead I saw what must have been many thousands of the smaller greater whipwort liverwort (Bazzania trilobata.) It doesn’t seem to need as much surface water as some of the others and was thriving here. There were also plenty of mosses but I couldn’t get close enough to the walls to get any macro photos of them. I’m already looking forward to seeing this place when all the plants start growing. It might be a good spot to see some of our native red columbine.

22. Looking Back

To me this place was completely wild and beautiful and though it was slow going in places there was a lot to see. Time must have gotten snagged on a branch of that first tree I crawled under because I lost all sense of it and was surprised to see that 5 hours had passed when I got back to the start of the trail. It had felt more like 15 minutes.

Surrender to the unknown and trust that the universe will lead you home. ~Karen A. Baquiran

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1. Road View

I’ve agreed to help a group of youngsters called Pathfinders in their quest to find good examples of mosses, lichens and liverworts. I know of 2 places where they could find all three of them without too much trouble and decided that the old abandoned road along Beaver Brook would probably be the safest. From what I can tell Pathfinders are anywhere from 10-15 years old and get merit badges and other awards each time they meet certain goals, much like the Boy Scouts.

2. Beaver Brook

Anyone who has read this blog for very long knows that if you stand me up in front of a group of people and ask me to speak I immediately forget everything I’ve ever known, but this should be very different. By reading other nature blogs I know that people who lead excursions like these usually go off on the hunt alone before they lead a group, so that’s what I did. Beaver Brook was almost completely iced over with just a narrow ribbon of water glistening in the sunshine. It was sunny but it was cold and the snow where it hadn’t been walked on was quite deep. Since I made this trip we’ve gotten over a foot of new snow, so I hope the Pathfinders have already earned their winter survival badges.

 3. Ledge Ice

I chose this place because of the easily accessible ledges and trees. Since vertical ledges and trees don’t accumulate much snow the lichens, mosses and liverworts that grow on them are easy to find all winter long. We’ll have to pay close attention to ice though; we don’t want anyone standing under that. Since this trip is planned towards the end of the month the ice could be rotten and falling by then.

4. Smoky Eye Boulder Lichen

Beautiful smokey eye boulder lichens(Porpidia albocaerulescens) grow on the stone of the ledges along with many other lichens and mosses. I’m hoping that each Pathfinder has his or her own loupe or magnifying glass so they can see details like the beautiful sky blue fruiting bodies (Apothecia) on this lichen. Part of this lichen in the top center of the photo was under ice, and what a difference it made in its appearance.

5. Quartz Crystal Formations

While I was looking for lichens I found a pocket of milky quartz crystals that I’ve never seen here before. It seems like every time I come here I see something new and on this day, between lichens and quartz crystals, I found three things that I had never seen here. That’s why it pays to follow the same trails over and over; you think you’ve seen all there is to see but you find that you haven’t even come close.

6. Hole in the Snow

There was a quarter sized hole in the snow that must have had warm water vapor rising up through it, because its edges were decorated with delicate, feather like frost crystals.

7. Yellow Feather Moss

Yellow feather moss (Homalothecium lutescens) always looks pale and sickly but it is perfectly healthy, as its spore capsule production shows. This moss is rare here and this small clump is the only example I know of, so maybe it will earn the Pathfinders some extra points.

8. Yellow Feather Moss Spore Capsule

I won’t tell you how many shots of this yellow feather moss spore capsule I had to take before I got a useable one, but it was a lot. This example still has its tiny, pointy, red cap-like lid (operculum), meaning it hasn’t released its spores yet.

9. Stairstep Moss

Stair step moss (Hylocomium splendens) is another beautiful moss that I’ve seen nowhere but here. It’s looking a little dry at the moment but it will snap back as soon as it warms up and we get some rain. This moss gets its common name from the way new leaves “step up” from the backs of older leaves.

10. Possible Fused Rim Lichen aka Lecanora symmicta

I found a crustose lichen that I’ve never seen before. It grew on tree bark and I think that it might be a fused rim lichen (Lecanora symmicta.) Fused rim lichens get their name from the way the tan colored fruiting bodies (Apothecia) sometimes fuse together. I don’t know if this is a rare lichen or if I’ve just never noticed it before because it fruits in winter, but it’s something else that might earn the Pathfinders extra points.

11. Blue Lichen

I’ve known for a long time that lichens change color when they dry out but I didn’t know that cold affected them. Then I started seeing blue lichens in places where I was sure there were none before and I realized that some of the lichens that I saw in the summer were turning blue in winter. That isn’t much help when it comes to identifying them though, so now I have to go back when it’s warmer and see if I can figure out what they are. Once I’ve identified them I can see what the books say about them turning blue.

12. Greater Whipwort Liverwort

The Pathfinders need to find 5 mosses, 5 lichens, and 1 liverwort and the greater whipworts (Bazzania trilobata) that grow on the ledges here will take care of the liverwort requirement. They’ve shriveled a bit because of the cold and dryness but it’s still obvious that they aren’t a moss. I always find these liverworts growing on stones near streams, so they must like high humidity.

13. Script Lichen

Script lichens (Graphis) are another candidate for a hand lens but well worth the effort. There are 39 species of script lichens in North America and many more throughout the world and their most important identification characteristic is their squiggly apothecia, which look like ancient script written on tree bark.  I counted at least five different species on this day in just this small area, but I think you could probably spend a lifetime trying to identify script lichens. If I was still a teenager I might take on such a challenge.

14. Yellow Crust Fungus

I’m sure that the Pathfinders will find all that they’re looking for and plenty more besides. I even found a bright yellow fungus that I think might be a crowded parchment (Stereum complicatum), even though they are usually orange. Color like this is always a welcome sight in winter and I hope I can remember where it was so I can show it to them.

15. Brook View

The only thing I can’t be sure of is how much snow we’ll have by the day of our trip. I’ve already had to start wearing gaiters, but if we keep getting two or three snowstorms each week like we have been lately we might all need snowshoes.

I’m glad that I made this solo journey because now I know that the kids won’t be disappointed. There is plenty here to see and I hope they will come away from this place with an urge to see more and learn more. I also hope the knowledge that they can see beauty virtually anywhere as long as they are willing to look for it will stay with them for a good long time.

Every child is born a naturalist. His eyes are, by nature, open to the glories of the stars, the beauty of the flowers, and the mystery of life.  ~ Ritu Ghatourey

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1. Beaver Swamp in Fog

Last weekend I planned to climb a mountain to see the foliage colors from above but the weather had other plans. On Saturday it rained until about 1:00 pm and on Sunday morning the fog was about as thick as it ever gets here. I stopped in at a local swamp to see what I could see.

2. Beaver Lodge in Fog

I couldn’t see much of anything except the fuzzy outline of a beaver lodge off shore.

3. Trail

Once the rain stopped on Saturday I climbed Hewes Hill where Tippin Rock is. By the time I reached the top the sun was fully out and pointed directly at the camera, so none of the photos are worth showing. On Sunday once the fog lifted I was able to reach the top a little earlier in the day but once again the lighting was harsh.

 4. Greater Whipwort

On the way up I found a rock that was covered with greater whipwort liverworts (Bazzania trilobata,) which always remind me of centipedes. They are quite small and from a distance they look a lot like moss, so you have to look closely to see them. I was surprised to see them here because I’ve always found them near water before.

5. Wolf's Milk Slime Mold

I also saw some wolf’s milk slime mold (Lycogala epidendrum.) The fruiting bodies of this slime mold look a lot like light colored, pinkish brown puffballs but the proof is in the squeezing. Immature examples will release a pink liquid like that shown in the photo. Some describe the liquid as having a toothpaste like consistency but examples I’ve seen have always been more like a thick liquid. Older examples will have powdery gray spores inside. I always find them growing on logs at about this time of year.

 6. Jelly Fungus

An eastern hemlock log had some orange jelly fungi (Dacrymyces palmatu.) growing on it. This fungus looks a lot like yellow witches butter (Tremella mesenterica) but witches butter grows on hardwood logs. This fungus is common and I see it at all times of year, even in winter. What you see here would fit on a quarter.

7. Hemlock Varnish Shelf

Something else found on eastern hemlocks is the hemlock varnish shelf mushroom (Ganoderma tsugae.) This mushroom’s common name comes from its shiny cap, which looks like it has been varnished. It is considered the most important of all the herbs and substances used in Chinese Herbal Medicine, including ginseng. In China it is called the Reishi mushroom and scientists around the world are researching its anti-cancer potential.

8. Trail

The trail was carpeted in leaves all the way up and the smells of fall were heavy in the damp air.

 9. Smiley Face

Whoever painted the blue blazes on the trees must have had some paint left over. They must have been having a good day too.  Actually, in a place like this it’s hard not to be happy.

10. Tippin Rock Sign

Before long you see the sign for Tippin Rock.

11. Tippin Rock

As if you could miss a 40 ton glacial erratic perched on a hilltop! Tippin Rock gets its name from the way that it will rock if pushed in the right place. After my last post about the rock I got an email from a man who was at a dedication ceremony for the rock three years ago, and he told me that he watched some kids climb up on it. By all standing on one end of it they got it rocking back and forth. But we’re not here for the boulder this time.

12. Foliage

This time we’re here for the foliage. Unfortunately I don’t have any great photos of it because of the way the rain and fog forced me to delay my climbs until the afternoon when the sun was almost directly ahead of me.

13. Foliage

These photos will give you some idea of what I saw though. I’m surprised how many bare trees there are in this one.

14. Foliage

It’s really too bad that the light made it so difficult for the camera to catch what I saw, because the foliage was beautiful from up here. I sat and admired it for a while, hoping a stray cloud might dim the sun, but it never happened.

15. Foliage

This shot was taken with my cell phone and shows that it also had trouble with the bright sunshine. It also shows, in the lower left corner, the sheer cliff edges found here. This isn’t a place to be wandering around in the dark without a flashlight but it’s a great place to visit during the daytime.

I’ve never known anyone yet who doesn’t suffer a certain restlessness when autumn rolls around. . . . We’re all eight years old again and anything is possible. ~Sue Grafton

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 1. Beaver Brook

Another warm sunny day last weekend prompted me to follow this old abandoned road up to Beaver Brook falls once more. I thought that, the way things were warming up so fast, it might be my last chance to see them in their frozen state.

 2. Blue Ice Formations 

The blue ice on the ledges reminded me of the aquamarine crystals I used to find while mineral hunting. I can’t say that blue ice is rare but I’ve only seen it in two places. As I learned from reading Sue’s Back Yard Biology blog, blue ice happens when the oxygen-hydrogen bonds in water absorb the red parts of the spectrum and reflect blue light back. Further reading tells me that it is also very dense. These ledges are about 15-20 feet high and the ice formations are bigger than tree trunks.

 3. Ice Formations

Beaver brook also had some interesting ice formations growing in it.

 4. Amber Jelly Fungus

It was warm enough to thaw the amber jelly fungi (Exidia recisa). I like holding it up to the light so I can see through it because it looks like stained glass, but I’ve never noticed the yellowish spots in it before. Amber jellies are true “winter fungi” and that is when I usually find them.

 5. Aster Seed Head

There are still plenty of seeds on the New England asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae). In fact I’m still seeing an abundance of seeds, nuts and berries everywhere I go. That strikes me as odd but it could be that I’ve just never noticed how much is left in the spring before.

 6. Giant Boulder

This boulder sits in the woods on the far side of the brook so I can’t get to it to see if it is a true glacial erratic, but it’s easy to see from where I stand that it’s as big as a house.  There is quite a steep hill on that side of the brook and I wonder what stopped its rolling further down the hill and into the brook.

 7. Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen 

There are some interesting lichens here, like this smokey eye boulder lichen (Porpidia albocaerulescens). One thing that makes it so interesting to me is how the whitish coating on the black fruiting disks (Apothecia) changes color when the light comes from different anglers.  They can appear light gray, dark gray, light blue or dark blue.  They change color because of the whitish waxy coating that reflects ultra violet rays and is very similar to the bloom on plums, blueberries, and black raspberry canes.

 8. Greater Whipwort Liverwort aka Bazzania trilobata

Every time I come here I see something that I’ve never seen here before and this time was no different. In the case of the greater whip wort (Bazzania trilobata) in the above photo I’m sure that I missed it because you have to look closely to see that it is a liverwort and not a moss.  Bazzania trilobata is a leafy liverwort that likes high humidity. It always reminds me of centipedes.

 9. Greater Whipwort Liverwort Closeup aka Bazzania trilobata

I’m not sure why it is called greater whipwort, because each leaf is only about an eighth of an inch wide and the group of plants in the previous photo isn’t 6 inches across. The trilobata part of the scientific name refers to the way that each leaf ends in 3 triangular notches.  The root-like growths are branches.

 10. Beaver Brook Falls 

Ice must be a great insulator because the 40-50 foot tall falls, like the brook itself, was silent. It seems so strange for this place to be silent after hearing the very load roar of the falls in summer.

To get a really good view of the falls you have to climb down quite a steep embankment, which I’ve decided would be foolish to do in winter, so that’s why there are trees in the way in this shot.

 11. Hole in Brook Ice 2

This is part of the reason I don’t climb down the embankment to the falls. If you tipped a Volkswagen Beetle on its side it would fit right into this hole with room to spare.  The depth from the top of the snow layer down to the water surface was about 7 feet, and I stood there thinking that if I accidently stumbled into a hole like this, I would most likely never get out of it. It reminded me once again why you have to have your wits about you when you’re in the woods.

 12. Egg Case Hanging from Moss

This is probably the strangest thing I saw this day. I’m assuming it is a spider’s egg sac, but I’m not sure. It was hanging from some moss by a thread of silk like a tiny Christmas ornament.

 13. Egg Case Hanging from Moss 2

This is a closer look at the whatever-it-is. It had a little stocking cap like growth on top that was opened, but I couldn’t see any of this until I cropped the photo because it was so small. The “orb” itself was no bigger than a sixteenth of an inch across. If you’re reading this and know what it is I’d like to hear from you.

Note: If you’d like to read more about this place just type “Beaver Brook” in the search box in the upper right corner.

The whole secret of the study of nature lies in learning how to use one’s eyes.  ~George Sand

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